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That is Why I Went There

Always on Patrol

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[Annotators Note: Interview begins with Theodore Finkbeiner and the interviewer discussing the interview they did three years before this interview.] Theodore Finkbeiner grew up in Monroe, Louisiana. His father was a pipefitter. He had finished high school and had started at the local junior college when the war started. He decided to join the service but he had to wait until he was 18. On his 18th birthday he joined the army. He wanted to join the Air Force but he was color blind. Being a young man he wanted to do the most exciting thing he could so he volunteered for the paratroops. He was the first person from Monroe to be accepted into parachute training. Finkbeiner chose to join the airborne because he thought they would be the best and he wanted to be the best. He also felt that he was uniquely qualified to be a paratrooper. He grew up with a rifle in his hands. He started hunting when he was just a young boy. He had also read a lot about the wars that had taken place prior to World War 2. When Finkbeiner went overseas he was a sniper. He was a very good shot. If he could see it he could hit it. Even though he was made a sniper he never had the opportunity to work as a sniper. He just carried a rifle with a scope on it and was a good shot and that is how he worked. When he went on patrol or on outpost he acted like a true sniper. But if he shot he would have had to get out of there fast. Finkbeiner was at home in Monroe when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He remembers walking around talking about it. His good friend joined the Marines and he wanted to join with him but could not pass the test. Finkbeiner volunteered for the paratroops when he enlisted at the recruiting station in Monroe. He was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas for basic then on to Fort Benning for jump training. Jump training was tough. It was designed to make guys quit. Finkbeiner's first jump was easy. It was jumping from the tower that bothered him. When they jumped out of the plane they were not looking right at the ground. After getting out of the plane the descent was enjoyable. Finkbeiner made five jumps during his training at Fort Benning after which he was a qualified paratrooper. After they qualified they moved on to infantry training at a base in Alabama. During this training they ran everywhere. Everywhere they went they double timed it. They were in very good shape. Finkbeiner took his sniper training and got his rifle at Fort Bragg. The two guys with the highest score on the rifle range were selected from each company. They were each issued an 03A4 [Annotators Note: Springfield M1903-A4 .30 caliber rifle] with a Stargazer barrel and a four power Weaver scope. They were able to pick up as much ammunition as they wanted. They did a lot of shooting there. When their time was up there they returned to their outfit and got back to regular training. The only specialized sniper training he had was the shooting he did at Fort Bragg. When he got to North Africa they would go out with a spotter and shoot at extreme ranges, out to 1,100 or 1,200 yards. The longest shots they made in the United States were 500 yards. They also learned to judge long distance with their rifles.

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Theodore Finkbeiner shipped out of Cape Cod aboard the USS George Washington [Annotators Note: SS George Washington] in a slow convoy that took almost three weeks to get to their destination. He never got seasick but did get nauseated when he had to go down to the head [Annotators Note: a head is a bathroom in naval parlance]. On their way across the Atlantic they had games they played. There were also submarine alerts and sometimes they would fire off the big guns. It was a very boring trip. They landed at Casablanca. It was a different world. They had been issued pamphlets about how to act over there. The Arabs were mostly trying to sell them something but were mostly friendly to them. For entertainment they would rent horses from the Arabs and go riding. The Arabs had a different view of animals than back in the States. The Arabs were afraid of knives. They could point guns at them but if a GI pulled out a knife or a bayonet it terrified the locals. In North Africa they did some training and made a couple jumps. They set up camouflage positions that would be flown over to see how effective their camouflage was. Finkbeiner made one jump right after he had eaten a bunch of junk and came down with food poisoning. In North Africa the soldiers could not get an individual pass. They had to get dual passes and travel with a friend. Finkbeiner’s friend wanted to visit a house of ill repute. Finkbeiner refused to take a prophylactic. He was reported to the company and was punished for it by the temporary company commander. When their regular company commander returned he was angry about Finkbeiner being punished. One night one of the guys in Finkbeiner’s unit went through the camp throwing hand grenades with the powder removed from them. The paratroopers were shown on a sand table where they were supposed to jump and how they were to set up. It did not happen that way. The 3rd Battalion was pulled out [Annotators Note: of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment] and they joined the 505 [Annotators Note: 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division]. They were called X Battalion, 505 and jumped into Sicily on the first night. The rest of his regiment did not jump until the following day. Jumping into a combat zone is like jumping into a whole different world. When they were in the planes there were tracer bullets flying everywhere then when they jumped everything was quiet. They knew they were not where they were supposed to jump and they did not know how close they were to their drop zone. Some of the planes were shot at by friendly guns. Finkbeiner knew he had jumped in the wrong place because there were no other aircraft dropping at the same place. They also could not recognize anything on the ground. In the morning they came across a temporary airstrip. As they approached it they were saw some soldiers wearing khakis that looked just like they did. When the men at the airfield saw them and started yelling to them in German they opened fire. They killed two or three of them and the rest ran off. They took one prisoner. The enemy soldiers who ran off came back with a larger unit. Finkbeiner and the paratroopers he was with took off with their prisoner in a captured truck. The truck ran into a ditch and got stuck so they took off. They let the prisoner go because they had no way to take care of him.

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Theodore Finkbeiner and the paratroopers he was with started heading toward Gela. Whenever they heard shooting they would head toward it. One of Finkbeiner’s fellow paratroopers was wounded. He had been hit in the chest. They left him with a Sicilian family that put him in a bed and cared for him. Finkbeiner later learned that he had been captured by the Germans. The Sicilian family that took in his wounded friend was very friendly. All of the Sicilians they encountered were tickled to death to see them. Finkbeiner and the paratroopers he was with took a truck from the German troops they had encountered at an airfield. When the Germans shot at them and hit the radiator the hot water sprayed out and hit Finkbeiner in the legs. To make things worse, when the truck crashed into the ditch it hit a cactus and the spines went into Finkbeiner’s leg. He had trouble with his leg for several weeks after that. When they finally caught up with a lot of their troops a day later they were in defensive positions around a castle. The next day they ambushed the Hermann Goering Division on the road in front of them. After that battle they were able to get together and reorganize their unit. Finkbeiner does not recall the name of the castle but does remember that there was a German payroll in it. They found bundles of Italian lira and thought it was worthless so they set fire to it. Later they were paid in Italian lira. They got mad that they had destroyed so much of it. They had been issued invasion money when they went in but were paid in lira later on. They were set up in positions around the castle. Finkbeiner had his sniper rifle [Annotators Note: Finkbeiner carried a Springfield M1903A4 .30 caliber rifle with a Stargazer barrel and a four power Weaver scope], a Tommy gun [Annotators Note: Thompson submachine gun], his trench knife, and some hand grenades. Finkbeiner and the other paratroopers were unaware that the German tanks were not capable of climbing the hill they were dug in on. It was too steep. During the battle a bullet hit the bronze handle of Finkbeiner's trench knife and embedded in it. He kept it as a souvenir but when his barracks bag was shipped from Sicily to Italy the ship it was on sank so he lost it. There was a lot of fighting and a lot of killing going on along that road. Finkbeiner had a good field of fire with his sniper rifle and did real good with it. At the time of this battle the paratroopers were disorganized. It was not until after the battle that they were able to get reorganized with their unit. On one occasion Finkbeiner was approaching a house when a German soldier busted out of it and tried to stab him with a bayonet. The paratrooper behind him shot the enemy soldier. There were trying to find where the fighting was and where their troops were. When they finally made contact with their troops after the battle at the caste they started heading up the coast. They encountered a number of enemy emplacements but most of them were not manned. Those that were occupied were usually manned by Italian soldiers who would fire a few shots then run off. When they came across a position manned by Germans they would sometimes have a pretty good fight. Usually they would bypass the German troops and let the guys coming up behind them deal with the position since they were usually acting as scouts. The Italian troops they encountered tended to give up quicker than the Germans. If there were no German in the area the Italians would just give up. The positions set up along the coast were very sparsely manned. The paratroopers would sometimes go a day or two without seeing a German. If the German had actually fortified their pill boxes the landings from the sea would have been tough. At one of the places Finkbeiner and some other paratroopers went into they came across a lot of ammunition. They tried to shoot into it to destroy it. Fortunately that did not work because it would have killed them if it had.

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Sicily was an easier operation than Italy. Theodore Finkbeiner and his company [Annotators Note: Company H, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] only took part in a few real battles on Sicily. Most of their combat was small skirmishes. After Sicily was secured Finkbeiner stayed there and prepared for the invasion of mainland Italy. When they landed in Italy in they went in on LCIs [Annotators Note: Landing Craft, Infantry] at Salerno. There was no combat where they landed. After going ashore they marched inland to where the fighting was. Italy was rugged country. Finkbeiner did not like wearing a steel helmet so when he was walking up into the mountains he threw his down the hill. His commanding officer made him go down the hill and get it. When they went out on patrols at night they did not wear their helmets. Finkbeiner did not wear his helmet much. After they discovered that he was a skilled hunter and a good shot he spent most of his time on outpost duty and on patrols. Finkbeiner liked patrol and outpost duty. He liked to see how many enemy soldiers he could kill. Toward the end of the war he got somewhat leery of it but at the time he felt that the more he could kill the better. He had gone overseas to help shorten the war. In Italy Finkbeiner traded his folding stock carbine for a BAR [Annotators note: Browning Automatic Rifle]. The first combat Finkbeiner saw in Italy was when they came to a small town and encountered an enemy armored car. The paratroopers decided to ambush the armored car but all they had were their rifle so they did not do any damage. They did manage to alarm the crew of the enemy vehicle which quickly turned around and left. Finkbeiner does not recall what he did with his 03 [Annotators Note: up until the conclusion of the Sicily campaign Finkbeiner carried a M1903A4 .30 caliber rifle with a Stargazer barrel and a four power Weaver scope] but he stopped carrying it because he had a cut on his hand and the rifle bolt kept getting hung up on the bandage. Finkbeiner liked the BAR. It was an intimidating weapon. The M1 rifle was better for killing people because it could be aimed and fired. Firing the BAR on automatic caused the barrel to climb. It was not like it is in the movies. The BAR could be fired accurately when firing a two or three round burst. Finkbeiner would usually aim his first round at the crotch of the enemy soldier he was shooting at. He removed the bipod from the front of his BAR because it was heavy and clumsy. BAR gunners required ammunition bearers to work with them.

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Theodore Finkbeiner went on a patrol to snatch a prisoner one night and came to a bridge that had been blown out. They stopped and waited for the enemy to move. Finkbeiner saw three Germans come out into the open and set up a machinegun. There were seven or eight men on the patrol. The Germans were about 200 yards away when Finkbeiner cut loose with his BAR [Annotators note: Browning Automatic Rifle]. He killed one of the enemy soldiers and wounded another. The German he wounded was on the ground yelling for help. Finkbeiner told one of the guys with him to get the German soldier. He meant for the paratrooper to shoot the man but the trooper thought he meant to physically go and capture the man. Finkbeiner told the trooper to shoot. The wounded German soldier was calling out for help from the other enemy troops in the area. A number of them showed up so Finkbeiner’s patrol left the area. Finkbeiner's patrol was ambushed during the return trip. During the fight a German soldier took aim at Finkbeiner but a sergeant with Finkbeiner shot and killed the enemy soldier before he killed Finkbeiner. Finkbeiner’s patrol returned to their original positions. They would go on night patrols mostly to find out where the enemy was. Every now and then they would see an enemy outpost first and would kill one or two of them. One time they came across a town where the Germans were just walking around. Finkbeiner’s patrol opened fire on the town and were surprised that the enemy soldiers paid no attention to them. The following day they actually went into the town and discovered that the position they had been firing from was actually five miles from the town. It took the patrol all night to get down to the town and back. They would set up listening outposts out about 300 or 400 yards in front of the lines. The Germans would sometimes send scouts out. Sometimes Finkbeiner and his fellow paratroopers would kill a scout or two. Finkbeiner was never ambushed while he was in an outpost. He would sleep with one eye open. They manned the outpost with two men. Finkbeiner put some new recruits out on outpost one night and when he went from hole to hole to check on them he found them all huddled down in the bottom of their holes scared to death. Finkbeiner brought them back to the lines. They were afraid then but Finkbeiner is sure they learned. The Germans marked their minefields. The Americans only marked them on their own side of the line. The German fields were marked all around. The Germans had Bouncing Betty mines. Some of them had trip wires and some had to be stepped on. Working their way through enemy minefields was easier at night than in the day time. They would crawl through the minefield with their hands out in front feeling for tripwires. In the daytime the Germans could see them. The Germans had one mine that had three places to stick a fuse in it. They would attach a tripwire to the fuse. The tripwires were the worst. Finkbeiner was sent out to see if the Germans had pulled out. He marked a path through the minefield. He saw that the Germans had pulled out so he went back to get the rest of the company [Annotators Note: Company H, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division]. When they were moving through the minefield one of the paratroopers walked outside of the marked area and stepped on a mine.

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Theodore Finkbeiner and his company [Annotators Note: Company H, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] had gone into a small mountain town in Italy. A local civilian told them that the Germans had gone. The civilian led them into the town and they saw that the Germans had in fact gone. They spent the night in the town. By the next day the rest of the company had caught up with them. They made a combat patrol up the mountain and ran some Germans out of an outpost. They dug in in the same place the Germans had been. Finkbeiner almost slept on the ground outside of his foxhole. That night the Germans shelled the position with a devastating barrage. If Finkbeiner had been out of the hole he would have been cut to ribbons. In that location Finkbeiner found a German sniper rifle. When ordnance found it they insisted that he send it back to them. Before going up the mountain Finkbeiner saw a German dispatch rider riding a motorcycle on a road on the opposite side of a canyon about 1,100 yards away. Finkbeiner took a shot at the guy with an M1 rifle. The man and his motorcycle both went off the side of the hill. Finkbeiner does not know if he hit the rider or the motorcycle but either way he killed the guy. The dead German soldier had dispatch papers on him which Finkbeiner sent back to his commander. Being good at shooting was a blessing and a curse for Finkbeiner. When other units needed help he would be called. He really did not care. He enjoyed doing it. After Christmas Finkbeiner’s unit was resting off of the lines opening the packages they had received from home when they were bombed. Several of the men in Finkbeiner’s outfit were killed or wounded. That was the only time Finkbeiner ever felt fearful because he felt defenseless.

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When Theodore Finkbeiner landed on Anzio Beach he and the other landing troops were bombed and strafed. Company G [Annotators Note: Company G, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] was on their left and the landing craft Company G was coming in on was hit. Once they got to the beach they were no longer taking fire. They got organized and moved out along the Mussolini Canal that night. They had not been the first troops in. The column stopped and Finkbeiner was called to the front to go check out a couple of buildings up ahead. He did and found that there were no Germans there anymore. Finkbeiner was called again. One of the guys in his squad put his hand over Finkbeiner’s mouth and told him not to answer. He did not want to have to go out ahead of the column to search buildings. Finkbeiner later learned that some members of his squad had asked for a transfer because they did not want to be on outpost duty every night or have to go out ahead of the column to look for the enemy. The next morning the paratroopers launched an attack during which Finkbeiner was wounded. He had taken up a position on the bank of the canal. He had made squad leader by that time and was carrying a Tommy gun [Annotators Note: Thompson submachine gun]. His position was up a little higher than the enemy soldiers. He had an open shot and opened fire on the German troops that were firing at his men. Finkbeiner killed several enemy soldiers but was also hit during the fight. He was hit by rounds from an enemy submachine gun. Two of the bullets hit the stock of his Tommy gun and one hit him in the chest. His buddy ran up to him and put a bandage on his wound. His friend then left and Finkbeiner walked back to an aid station. Finkbeiner never saw the German soldier who shot him. The German soldiers he killed never saw him either. Finkbeiner went to the field hospital on the beach where he was operated on. While at the hospital he could hear the shells from the Anzio Express [Annotators Note: the Anzio Express was a 280 millimeter heavy railway gun that fired on the Anzio Beachhead] going overhead. They made a lot of noise but he does not think they hit anything. From the field hospital Finkbeiner was sent to Naples on an LST, Landing Ship Tank. The tank deck of the ship was full of pallets of wounded men. Finkbeiner enjoyed his stay at the hospital in Naples. He was able to go out into town and have a little fun. While he was in the hospital things were going bad at Anzio. He was asked by the regimental surgeon if he felt well enough to go back to his unit. He said yes and was returned to Anzio the following day and spent the rest of the battle in outposts or on patrols. The men in his squad did not like being the only squad to always be on patrol. Later in the war when Finkbeiner was in Holland he told his platoon leader that he thought it would be a good idea if the squads rotated going on patrol so it was not just his squad going on all of them. He also suggested that the platoon sergeant lead some of the patrols. When Finkbeiner made platoon sergeant his platoon commander sent him out to lead them. His suggestion had come back to bite him.

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At some point after Theodore Finkbeiner returned to his company [Annotators Note: Company H, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] in the Anzio Beachhead they were surrounded by German troops. Finkbeiner and the others just hunkered down and fought back until the Germans finally pulled back. That action was near the end of Finkbeiner’s time in Italy. Shortly after that fight his unit was pulled out and shipped to England. Finkbeiner enjoyed England. While training he was given a pass to go into London for two days. When he returned to his unit he found out that he had been appointed the new special service NCO [Annotators Note: Non Commissioned Officer]. He was good with that. He was basically the party planner. Finkbeiner went canoeing with a girl he was dating. Somewhere his wallet fell out of his pocket. He was surprised when a young English boy tracked him down and returned it to him with the 3,000 dollars he had still in it. They stayed in England training until they jumped during Market Garden [Annotators Note: the unsuccessful Allied assault into Holland on 17 September of 1944]. Finkbeiner’s regiment trained in England while the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division was fighting in Normandy. Some of the men in his company had jumped into Normandy as path finders then returned to England soon after. During Market Garden there was more fighting than anywhere Finkbeiner had fought before. He does not know how they made it. The Market Garden jump was made during the day and was a picnic except for the plane on Finkbeiner’s left being hit and going down. Half of his platoon had been on that plane. Many of them got out of the plane but were captured. Right after the plane was hit one of the escort aircraft dive bombed the antiaircraft gun and knocked it out. That was the only antiaircraft fire they took during the flight. Finkbeiner and the other paratroopers with him landed in a beet field just outside of Grave [Annotators Note: Grave, Holland]. They got organized then moved out to attack the bridge that was their objective. Finkbeiner’s company attacked one side of the bridge while another company attacked the other. Finkbeiner’s company had little trouble securing their side but the company attacking on the other side ran into strong opposition. Following the fight at the bridge the next combat Finkbeiner took part in was the river crossing [Annotators Note: the crossing of the Waal River on 20 Septemebr 1944]. The Dutch people were the finest. They had an underground that knew where the Germans were. There were instances where the underground took American soldiers to where the enemy was. The Dutch also seemed to be cleaner than any of the other locals the paratroopers encountered. Finkbeiner and Megellas [Annotators Note: US Army Lieutenant Colonel James Megellas] were supposed to return to Holland with two others but the trip was cancelled. Megellas was supposed to do a book signing and they were going to visit hospitals and military installations. After the war Finkbeiner never went to any veterans meetings until he went to Fon du Lac.

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Theodore Finkbeiner took part in the famous river crossing during Operation Market Garden [Annotators Note: the crossing of the Waal River on 20 Septemebr 1944]. During the crossing the man sitting next to Finkbeiner was hit by a 20 millimeter or similar round. Finkbeiner ducked down into the boat. He helped paddle with his head down. When they reached the far shore the engineer who took them across went with them even though he was supposed to go back and pick up another load of troops. He did not want to paddle back across the river. When they hit the beach it was hard for the men to jump up and start moving because of the heavy fire coming at them. The first real fight they ran into was at a small fort with a moat around it. Finkbeiner killed a German lieutenant and took a camera off of him. From there they moved on to a railroad embankment. When they got to the top Finkbeiner stuck his head up and found himself inches away from a German machinegun. Finkbeiner and the German gunner both ducked but the enemy soldier pulled the trigger. The blast knocked Finkbeiner’s hat off. Finkbeiner and some other paratroopers with him threw hand grenades over the top. The Germans threw grenades too but theirs did not have fragmentation so they did not bother Finkbeiner a bit. Finkbeiner heard someone yelling in German so he stuck his head up to see. He saw a bunch of Germans charging toward them. Finkbeiner shot some of them. He was worried about whether he would be able to reload his weapon quickly enough after the empty clip ejected or if he was going to have to fight with his rifle butt. Finkbeiner liked the ping sound of the clip ejecting from the M1 rifle. That let him know it was empty and time to reload. Most of the Germans fell back leaving only a few who were wounded. One of the German soldiers was calling for help and before Finkbeiner could stop him the engineer that had come with them ran out to help the wounded man. The engineer was killed almost instantly. From that point on the paratroopers and Germans would pop up periodically and shoot. Finkbeiner was a little better at it than most. They continued on but had not moved very far when they heard what sounded like a large group of Germans moving their way. They ducked down to the right and moved toward the bridge that was their objective. When they got to the underpass by the bridge one of the guys was shot and died almost immediately. Under the underpass the Germans had a machinegun set up. The Germans put up a white flag but Finkbeiner did not trust them. When the paratroopers refused to give up to the Germans they opened fire. Finkbeiner’s guys returned fire and knocked out the gun. At about the same time there were tanks moving across the other bridge which caused the German troops to fall back right into the positions Finkbeiner’s unit was holding. Finkbeiner’s unit killed a lot of Germans there. That was the end of the fight. The paratroopers were informed that the British were relieving them. The British position was at the far end of the bridge. The American paratroopers had to fall back to the British positions. The Germans followed them shooting the whole way. Having to retreat like that after they had fought so hard to secure the positions they had made Finkbeiner sick. The paratroopers were withdrawn and moved to another section of the front. Finkbeiner does not know how much farther they could have advanced but they had accomplished a lot to that point.

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The river crossing [Annotators Note: the 20 September 1944 crossing of the Waal River in Holland during Operation Market Garden] Theodore Finkbeiner took part in was epic. He faced more intense fire there than anywhere else. A lot of people were killed during the crossing. The Germans were even firing antiaircraft machineguns at them as they crossed the river. They did have somewhat of a smoke screen to cover them but it did not last long. They were also issued tracer bullets that they were supposed to fire at the embankment to guide friendly artillery fire. The only thing the paratroopers were told before making the crossing was that they were to cross the river and capture the bridge. The brass did not expect them to actually make it. After falling back they were moved to an area of woods where Finkbeiner resumed his patrol duties. On one patrol Finkbeiner was approaching a house when a German lieutenant opened the door and stepped out. The enemy officer pulled the door closed behind him and began chewing out Finkbeiner and the other men on the patrol. They took the lieutenant prisoner. The following night the whole company moved up and an outpost was set up by that house. Finkbeiner put a rifle grenade attachment on his rifle in case they encountered enemy tanks. As they approached the house a German soldier popped up out of a foxhole. Finkbeiner could not fire at the man with the rifle grenade attachment on his rifle and it took him several moments to get someone else from the company to shoot the guy. Finkbeiner and the others dug in around the house and waited. The following day the Germans launched a counter attack on their positions. Some of the American companies were overrun and some of the paratroopers were taken prisoner. They had a heck of a fire fight there. Finkbeiner was called up and several German troops were pointed out to him who were on open ground several hundred yards away. Finkbeiner fired several rounds at the enemy soldiers from the inside of the house. Another paratrooper tried shooting the Germans from outside of the house and was shot and killed by an enemy machinegun. Finkbeiner was told that the Germans were closing in on them from the other side. He went to take a look and saw two German soldiers walking across an open field toward him. Finkbeiner shot and killed the two Germans and realized at the same moment that the Germans had been escorting American prisoners they had captured earlier. The American soldiers ducked and ran but Finkbeiner does not know if they got away or were recaptured. There was a lot of shooting going on during the day. That night Finkbeiner was notified that his lieutenant wanted him to fall back. They fell back and reorganized then were moved to another section of the line.

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Theodore Finkbeiner does not know why his unit was pulled out of its positions. When they moved into their new positions Finkbeiner was slightly wounded when he was grazed on the head by mortar fragments while acting as a forward observer for an artillery unit. They also ran out of gun oil while they were there. A number of their weapons were out of action because they had no oil. While they were there Finkbeiner went out on a number of patrols. They were not able to call for friendly artillery support unless there was a verified enemy troop concentration. Otherwise they would only be allotted two rounds. It was truly aggravating for Finkbeiner not having any gun oil. Many of the company’s weapons were all but useless due to the lack of oil. At about this time Finkbeiner got word that he would be getting a 30 day leave home. He never got back into combat. When Finkbeiner got to Paris he heard that the Battle of the Bulge had started. For a while he was worried that they would not be allowed on the plane but they were. They flew from Paris to England where they boarded the Queen Mary and steamed to the United States. On the way back he sprained his ankle on the ship. When they arrived in Scotland he was hospitalized. He tried to be sent back to his unit but was instead put in a replacement depot and assigned Sergeant of the Guard duty. He was only able to get out of that by going on sick call. Since his ear drums had been ruptured when a machinegun was fired right above his head they succumbed to infection easily. He told the doctor that his ear was infected and the doctor agreed with him. The doctor would not put him back on Sergeant of the Guard duty so he was shipped back to his old unit. At one time the 82nd [Annotators Note: 82nd Airborne Division] had come through the town where the replacement depot was located. He should have gone AWOL [Annotators note Absent Without Leave]. Finkbeiner had a lot of points and was sent back to the United States right after the end of the war. He was discharged at Camp Shelby then went to work for his local fire department where he worked for 37 years. He retired from the fire department 18 or 19 years ago. Now he hunts, fishes, and even does some volunteer work for his local theater.

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Sicily was an easier operation than Italy. Theodore Finkbeiner and his company [Annotators Note: Company H, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] only took part in a few real battles on Sicily. Most of their combat was small skirmishes. After Sicily was secured Finkbeiner stayed there and prepared for the invasion of mainland Italy. When they landed in Italy in they went in on LCIs [Annotators Note: Landing Craft, Infantry] at Salerno. There was no combat where they landed. After going ashore they marched inland to where the fighting was. Italy was rugged country. Finkbeiner did not like wearing a steel helmet so when he was walking up into the mountains he threw his down the hill. His commanding officer made him go down the hill and get it. When they went out on patrols at night they did not wear their helmets. Finkbeiner did not wear his helmet much. After they discovered that he was a skilled hunter and a good shot he spent most of his time on outpost duty and on patrols. Finkbeiner liked patrol and outpost duty. He liked to see how many enemy soldiers he could kill. Toward the end of the war he got somewhat leery of it but at the time he felt that the more he could kill the better. He had gone overseas to help shorten the war. In Italy Finkbeiner traded his folding stock carbine for a BAR [Annotators note: Browning Automatic Rifle]. The first combat Finkbeiner saw in Italy was when they came to a small town and encountered an enemy armored car. The paratroopers decided to ambush the armored car but all they had were their rifle so they did not do any damage. They did manage to alarm the crew of the enemy vehicle which quickly turned around and left. Finkbeiner does not recall what he did with his 03 [Annotators Note: up until the conclusion of the Sicily campaign Finkbeiner carried a M1903A4 .30 caliber rifle with a Stargazer barrel and a four power Weaver scope] but he stopped carrying it because he had a cut on his hand and the rifle bolt kept getting hung up on the bandage. Finkbeiner liked the BAR. It was an intimidating weapon. The M1 rifle was better for killing people because it could be aimed and fired. Firing the BAR on automatic caused the barrel to climb. It was not like it is in the movies. The BAR could be fired accurately when firing a two or three round burst. Finkbeiner would usually aim his first round at the crotch of the enemy soldier he was shooting at. He removed the bipod from the front of his BAR because it was heavy and clumsy. BAR gunners required ammunition bearers to work with them.

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When Theodore Finkbeiner landed on Anzio Beach he and the other landing troops were bombed and strafed. Company G [Annotators Note: Company G, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] was on their left and the landing craft Company G was coming in on was hit. Once they got to the beach they were no longer taking fire. They got organized and moved out along the Mussolini Canal that night. They had not been the first troops in. The column stopped and Finkbeiner was called to the front to go check out a couple of buildings up ahead. He did and found that there were no Germans there anymore. Finkbeiner was called again. One of the guys in his squad put his hand over Finkbeiner’s mouth and told him not to answer. He did not want to have to go out ahead of the column to search buildings. Finkbeiner later learned that some members of his squad had asked for a transfer because they did not want to be on outpost duty every night or have to go out ahead of the column to look for the enemy. The next morning the paratroopers launched an attack during which Finkbeiner was wounded. He had taken up a position on the bank of the canal. He had made squad leader by that time and was carrying a Tommy gun [Annotators Note: Thompson submachine gun]. His position was up a little higher than the enemy soldiers. He had an open shot and opened fire on the German troops that were firing at his men. Finkbeiner killed several enemy soldiers but was also hit during the fight. He was hit by rounds from an enemy submachine gun. Two of the bullets hit the stock of his Tommy gun and one hit him in the chest. His buddy ran up to him and put a bandage on his wound. His friend then left and Finkbeiner walked back to an aid station. Finkbeiner never saw the German soldier who shot him. The German soldiers he killed never saw him either. Finkbeiner went to the field hospital on the beach where he was operated on. While at the hospital he could hear the shells from the Anzio Express [Annotators Note: the Anzio Express was a 280 millimeter heavy railway gun that fired on the Anzio Beachhead] going overhead. They made a lot of noise but he does not think they hit anything. From the field hospital Finkbeiner was sent to Naples on an LST, Landing Ship Tank. The tank deck of the ship was full of pallets of wounded men. Finkbeiner enjoyed his stay at the hospital in Naples. He was able to go out into town and have a little fun. While he was in the hospital things were going bad at Anzio. He was asked by the regimental surgeon if he felt well enough to go back to his unit. He said yes and was returned to Anzio the following day and spent the rest of the battle in outposts or on patrols. The men in his squad did not like being the only squad to always be on patrol. Later in the war when Finkbeiner was in Holland he told his platoon leader that he thought it would be a good idea if the squads rotated going on patrol so it was not just his squad going on all of them. He also suggested that the platoon sergeant lead some of the patrols. When Finkbeiner made platoon sergeant his platoon commander sent him out to lead them. His suggestion had come back to bite him.
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